AHEAD OF THE CROWD

Tanzania 2014 | DIPLOMACY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Jakaya Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, on the importance of a fiber-optic network, attracting FDI, and the secret of Tanzania's ongoing success.

What policy decisions have contributed to making Tanzania such an attractive destination for FDI?

One is our diplomacy, which is working. We have been succeeding in our diplomatic efforts. For example, a super computer was donated to Tanzania by India, and it is capable of doing amazing things. In e-medicine, which we are working hard to develop, we were able to see its capabilities when the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, visited the Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology. My reaching out to Bill Gates at Microsoft led to support for our schools, and communication with IBM resulted in 28,000 books on technology being sent to schools. I have visited laboratories at Google and Stanford University, and everyone wanted to work with us. When it comes to investment, it is a question of putting the right policies in place and ensuring that the climate is attractive for the private sector. We see a lot of interest in Tanzania's resources, such as exploration for natural gas. The peace, stability, and predictability of our investment policies are also very attractive. We made a number of changes in our investment law, but we are always working in a civilized and solid manner. The country's geography itself is a resource, and if someone chooses to locate their business in Tanzania, they have access to a huge market. I believe that is what draws FDI.

How will the “Big Results Now" initiative help Tanzania achieve its Vision 2025 goal to become a middle-income country?

Planning has been our tradition since independence. We started with five three-year development plans over a period of 15 years. With the oil shock, the war with Uganda, and the historical droughts, the implementation of the second five-year development plan did not go as well as we had hoped. We almost stopped doing the five-year plans. In 2000, we developed a long-term perspective and Vision 2025, through which Tanzania aims to become a middle-income nation. When I came into this position in 2005, we had declared the Vision, but we still lacked a plan. Recently, I came back to the 15-year development plan. We are now doing the first three-year development plan, and in 2025 we will emerge as a middle-income country. Breaking it down even further, we also draft annual plans. Within those, we see strategic areas of investment and focus. In the cabinet, we decided to agree on the first six sectors that needed our focus. It was almost a secret ballot. Everyone voted privately and that is how we decided on the top six sectors: infrastructure, energy, water, education, agriculture, and tourism. Had we agreed on seven, we would have also chosen health, so we incorporated it as well at a later time. With Big Results Now, we gathered in groups to discuss each sector, identify the achievements made in each, and note the future challenges. In addition, we wanted to draft proposals on the interventions that are necessary moving forward. We then realized that it was key to make certain things happen, and those actions had to be incorporated into the budget. We have been a bit late in terms of dealing with the process, and some of the areas have not yet been taken into account when allocating the budget. We knew it was important to implement the projects and follow-up with their progress. We wanted Big Results Now. The various ministries have made agreements to finish the projects in areas that they themselves identified; our task is simply to check in and make sure that they deliver on their promises. The government has made promises to the people, and we want to create more efficient ways to make those dreams a reality.

“If someone chooses to locate their business in Tanzania, they have access to a huge market. I believe that is what draws FDI."

How can Tanzania influence its neighbors to increase regional prosperity and stability?

We have been making contributions to peace in the region. However, as the English say, “charity begins at home." While we have been working aboard, we have been concentrating on peace and stability on the home front. There is rule of law, respect for human rights, and democracy in the country. We believe in the policies pursued by the founding fathers and the successive generations, and these have helped in making us a sustainable and peaceful country. In addition, we have also been able to make progress in many areas, and this is a factor of social, political, and economic policies that have carried through over the years. Furthermore, the dynamism, open-mindedness, and receptiveness to change of the Tanzanian people has also been key. We entered a market-based economy and we continue to open up the economy. In 2014, we are going to celebrate 50 years of the union, and although we have experienced challenges, on the whole we have succeeded. As we celebrate 50 years, I suggested that we review our constitution to decide whether or not there are any points that can be improved on. The commission has completed its part and made public many of its ideas; there are debates going on, and at the end of the dialogue we expect that we will be able to agree upon a constitution that works for everyone. There is inherent dynamism on the part of the ruling party, readiness to advance, and the room to advance and make the necessary changes. This has been the secret of the stability of the country and is a catalyst for positive changes to come.

© The Business Year - July 2013